Online Marketing: Hire An Agency Or DIY?

Updated on | By | Under the Category Outsourcing

Marketing, as we know, is neither a recent nor an easy feat. Businesses hire entire teams dedicated to marketing their services; this can include brand ambassadors, executives, PR specialists and ad agencies.

Online marketing, however, has recently risen in popularity with the rise of the internet, social media and the opportunity for paid ads on digital space almost anywhere on the web. It’s a field of expertise in its own right.

So how come, then, many small to medium businesses often lump online marketing tasks onto their in-house marketing team? It’s unlikely a business would decide to design and film their own TV commercial with all of their own resources. Even poster or billboard advertising requires the services of an ad agency. And yet, businesses and companies all over the world are dedicating very small amounts of time and knowledge to writing their own paid ads, managing their social media platforms and optimising their websites.

This view of online marketing as something that can be done on the side, or ‘when you’ve got time’, can be potentially harmful to businesses in terms of wasted time, cost and brand perception. We’ve compiled a few reasons why we believe small businesses should be hiring agencies to take on their online marketing.

Online Marketing Requires Time

Before a marketer (or anyone else) working at a business got lumbered with the task of dealing with online marketing, they were probably already busy. Online marketing takes careful time and planning, from set up to maintenance.

Creating a successful paid search campaign with Google AdWords is neither quick nor easy to understand. Careful consideration must go into planning: goal alignment, keyword research, landing pages and the all-important ad copy.

Managing social media platforms is not just as easy as signing up and Tweeting photos of your morning coffee. Time has to be taken to develop a tone of voice and a brand persona. What kinds of things will you post about, and when? Consideration must be given to gaining relevant followers and fans. Furthermore, if a business has several social media platforms, it can be hard to engage and interact with their fan base. If someone tweets a question, or a complaint, someone needs to be there to answer it in the name of good customer service. No business would leave their office telephone unattended, so why would they leave their social media platforms?

Agencies have time to manage these campaigns and platforms; that is their job. Not having enough time to tackle these issues can lead to rushed, inefficient campaigns and more often than not: mistakes. Which leads us onto our next point nicely.

Mistakes Negatively Affect Brand Perception

A spelling mistake in a blog post. A description line that is truncated because it exceeds the character limit. An ad that lands on a 404 error page on your website. These are some of the most common mistakes made by businesses taking on their own online marketing. Without enough time to proof-read, check up on policies or guidelines and test URLs, brands are put in precarious situations which make them look messy or as though they don’t care about their customers’ experience.

How about if a brand’s advertisement appears for irrelevant or even offensive terms on Google search? Brand’s risk their credibility if someone isn’t monitoring and preventing this from happening; that takes knowledge of the systems and interface available with AdWords or Bing advertising. While it might be easy to select a few keywords and give them a bid, ensuring the right combination of negative keywords are found and targeted takes a little more expertise. This also applies to display advertising; nobody wants their image ad appearing on inappropriate, abusive or political websites. Marketers need to either make sure they know how to prevent this kind of thing, or hire someone who does.

Businesses wouldn’t just let anyone speak on their behalf for a press release. Brand representatives are trained in what to say and what to avoid and how exactly to deliver the brand’s message. This should also apply for online marketing; agencies can help to produce and stick to brand guidelines and tone of voice.

Agencies can Crunch the Numbers

Most people don’t have time to export months of data and compare year on year, month on month or week on week figures. Forget about using spreadsheets and pivot tables to find the day of the week, or even the hour of the day where the best conversion rate is. And who has time to figure out the cost of sale, or the ROI, of paid search campaigns, right down to keyword level? Agencies do. Because, as previously mentioned, it’s their job.

What’s more prominent, however, is even if someone did have time to export and analyse data, would they know what the data was saying? Would they know how to action the insights found in that 4,500 row report? Probably not. At best, they could maybe look at top level figures and make educated guesses in the right direction. Agencies have staff, software and resources that they use to extract, analyse and action data; largely automated processes that then end up neatly packaged in an easy-to-understand monthly report for the client. There’s no point sweating over pages of data, spending hours trying to format and interpret it and turn it into actions, when an agency will happily and easily do it for you and make sure you’re informed of all the important parts along the way.

In conclusion, many businesses may think they are saving money by having someone in-house take care of their online marketing. Initially, that may be true. But months of irrelevant or misguided clicks on paid search ads build up into the 100s or 1000s of pounds. An improperly targeted keyword could be spending an entire campaign’s budget unnoticed. And, customers who are put off by mistakes or shoddy marketing could have been extremely valuable for a business. Hiring an agency to do your online marketing will likely lead to return on investment and enhanced brand awareness. A business trying to do it independently risks wasted cost, negative perceptions and hours of frustration.

About the Author: Amie Woodward

Amie Woodward is the Internet Marketing Manager at Optimised. Optimised is a full service Internet marketing agency in Hull, UK. We are an integrated team of online and offline marketers, strategists, designers, web developers and Internet marketing specialists. A one-stop team for designing, developing and maintaining a website that has a number one priority of making money.

5 Responses to “Online Marketing: Hire An Agency Or DIY?”

  1. Chris

    We managed our Google Ads in house for quite a while, we spent ages learning it and we put together what we thought was a good campaign it got us customers too! By chance we spoke to an agency who took a look at what we had done. They recommended changes and it made an instant improvement so we hired them. In addition to more enquiries we now have fantastic tracking and reporting, which we just could not have done on our own (we are printers not web techies) we are continuously looking at the data and making improvements. My advice is hire an agency that is good to talk to, talks you through the process and is 100% transparent in the way they do the work and why. Our agency uses basecamp, which we find is really useful and they provide an easy to digest report each month.

    • Lewis Crutch

      The way you approached your agency is also great advice to take on board. Speak to an agency, get them to look at your current strategy and offer up some suggestions (often free of charge). Implement those changes and wait for the results. If it’s positive then there’s no reason to not hire that team to work on a more consistent basis, continually improving conversions/sales/leads/traffic and so on.

  2. Shaun Luyt

    I agree totally with the reasons that you put forward for hiring an agency. From my experience – particularly as a real estate agent and a real estate business owner – I have found that a lot of agents – and even real estate offices – tend to still go the DIY route – well, partly at least. We outsourced our Google Adwords to a contractor. In hindsight I made a mistake with both – outsourcing the online marketing to someone that knew what they were doing would have probably been a good idea – at least in terms of the overall results and analysis and the online marketing activities would have been a lot more coordinated and, as a result, I believe would have delivered a lot better results. On the other hand, looking back at the results of the AdWords marketing that we outsourced, I wish I had of had a better idea of online marketing myself at the time – I simply outsourced it without really understanding it. Now that I know a lot more – having invested a lot of time in the last 12 months studying online marketing – there were some really obvious mistakes made – for example, the landing page of the ads should have been specifically targeted to the ads – in our case they were simply linked to the homepage, which, of course, was not really appropriate most of the time. So, I think there are a few problems here – firstly, the business (or independent contractor) needs to be made aware of the type of results that can actually be achieved when outsourcing – the cost of outsourcing needs to be measured in terms of the value of the results – and, more importantly, they need to know how to choose a good and effective partner. Irrespective of your business, I still believe that the solution is somewhere in the middle – you should certainly outsource to professionals and experts in the field, but you also need to stay involved and be able to manage and understand the job being done – and to be able to measure the results. As an independent contractor this is often difficult though – time is limited, and knowing a bit about everything (or rather, knowing enough to manage the outsourced activity well) is very, very difficult.

    • Amie Woodward

      Hi Shaun,

      What you said is exactly correct. Outsourcing your marketing to an agency should absolutely be a collaborative effort. The business needs to have a good idea of what they’d like to achieve, while the agency must detail how/whether this is possible. Agencies should be as transparent as possible to increase trust, and always willing to let businesses in to see their accounts or to discuss why certain decisions were made. It’s easy for many agencies to pull the wool over companies’ eyes if the business doesn’t know the first thing about online marketing – it’s definitely worth trying to get to know the subject a bit before hiring the first agency who say they’ll do a good job!

      It’s great that you took that time to learn about online marketing. It means you will probably have an easier and more fruitful relationship with agencies in the future.


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